Latest Art Downtown Warsaw Sheds Light On Benefits Of Public Displays

The art piece commissioned by the Kosciusko County Community Foundation in honor of retired Foundation Chief Executive Officer Suzie Light was unveiled Monday at 5 p.m. The artwork by artist Steve Shelby is on the west side of the KCCF building. Pictured (L to R) are Tami Murphy, Foundation office manager; Cheryl Lacheta, Foundation administrative assistant; Brenda Rigdon, Foundation development director; Stephanie Overbey, Foundation CEO; Jennifer Hollar, Foundation Board member; Kevin Deardorff, Foundation Board vice president; Jane Wear; Paula Kaiser, Foundation Board member; Christine Sands, Foundation Board member; Sally Mahnken, Foundation Board president; John Warren, Foundation Board member; Light; Amy Cannon, Foundation program director; and Shelby. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

Another piece of artwork has been added to downtown Warsaw.

Monday, the Kosciusko County Community Foundation and retired Foundation Chief Executive Officer Suzie Light unveiled the art piece by Steve Shelby, of South Whitley, which was commissioned by the Foundation’s board of directors in honor of Light’s 27 years of service. It hangs on the exterior west wall of the Foundation building at the intersection of East Market and South Buffalo streets, Warsaw.

The artwork was first unveiled to the public and to Light Aug. 18 at Light’s retirement party in Winona Lake.

Brenda Rigdon, Foundation development director, helped find the artist for the piece.

“We formed a committee to plan Suzie’s retirement celebration. It was at least a year ago, and we wanted to do something wonderful and permanent to commemorate Suzie’s contributions to the Community Foundation,” Rigdon said at Monday’s unveiling.

The committee kicked around several ideas but kept returning to the idea of Light’s love for art and how important it was to her.

“So we were talking about art and how do we commemorate someone with art in a public way so that everyone can share in that, not just people who are in the Community Foundation, but everyone in the community and we decided on some kind of permanent exterior art installation,” Rigdon said.

The committee did research on different kinds of art, materials that could be used and how much would it cost.

“We settled on using metal as the medium for the artwork, and then we needed to find an artist,” Rigdon said.

She knew Shelby because he goes to her church. She knew he works in different kinds of metals for his artwork and career because he donates pieces annually to their church to be auctioned off to benefit their church’s missions and programs.

The committee met with Shelby and brainstormed an idea.

“We got together, the four of us, and we started looking at different ideas. I was kind of clueless for a while, but then I just had this vision just kind of pop in my head.?It was kind of a forest path, sort of tunnel like, and a bright disc of a sun with rays imminenting from it. It just kind of popped in my head and I suggested that and they all said, ‘Yeah, let’s do that,’” Shelby recalled.

He did some sketches and “the rest is history,” he said.

After Light pulled down the covering Monday to unveil the art piece on the wall, she said, “I told Steve at the celebration that if he had reached into my head and heart, I couldn’t have imagined something more perfect. So thank you so very much. Thank you all. Thank you so very, very much.”

She was also thrilled that she gets to wear a miniature version of the art piece as a necklace, which Shelby also created, as a reminder of the bigger art piece. “Because it will be part of Warsaw’s virtual public art trail,” Light said.

After the ceremony, Shelby, said he worked on the art piece for almost four months. It’s made out of silicon bronze sheet bronze and is hammed and punched out from the back side. Shelby sketched it out first and the piece is about 3 feet high.

He said this was his first public display of his art.

“At the age of 71, I’m making a big step,” Shelby said. “I’ve been doing this kind of art for almost 20 years. I went to Ball State and majored in art, but after I got out I had to get a real job and kind of got away from it just about completely for a long time, like about 40 years. And finally got back to it around 2002.”

Public art is growing downtown. Along with the art display inside City Hall, Warsaw has several art pieces outdoors – at Central Park, City Hall parking lot, a mural on the north side of One Ten Craft Meatery building, a second mural taking shape on the south side of the Dennie building on Buffalo Street and a third mural on the way.

“Public art is progressing slower than I wish it would, but in this time, I’m happy that it is progressing,” Light said. “It’s important. If you were at the mural when the artist (Tim Parsley) was talking about public art, he said it’s a time that gives us pause outside of our daily routine to think about things beyond ourselves and our daily routine. And it’s important. It’s important for the quality of life for our community.”

She said Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer started the Warsaw Public Arts Commission because of the success of the first Seward Johnson temporary art installation. “He charged the Arts Commission with both temporary and permanent arts installations, so the first project the Commission worked on was the second temporary art installation of a Seward Johnson. Then the sculpture at City Hall plaza. It takes time, it takes time to fund it, it takes time for the artist to create it. It takes time,” Light said.

Her vision for art in Warsaw would be that there would be a lot of it.

“We need to identify places in town that would be conducive to beautiful art being installed,” Light said. “Think of the library lawn. Think of the Old Jail Museum. Those kind of places. Something at the courthouse lawn that inspires art. We’ve got some beautiful memorials, we can have some beautiful art, too.”